Nowhere is safe

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jan 05, 2005 12:00 AM

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, recently returned from his second fact-finding mission to Iraq, this latest with a small group of fellow members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including committee chairman Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican; ranking member Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat; and Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat.

It was during a private meeting at the offices of interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi that Allawi told the senators to move their chairs away from the window - for fear an insurgent sniper might take aim at the American scalps.

ROLLER COASTER

Michael Briggs, press secretary to former vice presidential candidate and now-retired Sen. John Edwards, couldn't have phrased his farewell note any better: "As we prepare to close Senator Edwards' offices, we didn't want to leave without saying thanks to the North Carolina press corps and to reporters from other places who took an interest in the senator during the past six years. It's been quite a ride."

'MR. ROMANCE'

While most of Washington was on holiday, Washington political pollster Frank Luntz was expanding his horizons - toward Hollywood and points east.

On the former front, he'll be appearing in an upcoming episode of MTV's comedy series "Damage Control," playing a political media consultant shilling for a somewhat disreputable candidate.

He also has an on-camera role in the Oxygen network reality series "Mr. Romance," this time playing himself leading a dial focus group designed to tell men what language to use to woo women. Both shows are expected to air next month.

Luntz has recently appeared in front of international cameras as well. "The Ambassador," the highest-rated show on Israeli television, featured the pollster in a Donald Trump-like role, intimidating eight would-be Israeli ambassadors by barking out real-life questions and demanding real-life answers. A second "Ambassador" episode with Luntz will be filmed later this month in New York.

On a more serious note, based on exit polling conducted for ICTV, Luntz joined with Democrat pollster Doug Schoen on national Ukrainian television to declare Viktor Yushchenko the winner of the almost-deadly presidential contest in Ukraine.

Their announcement came at exactly at 8 p.m., just as the polls were closing, essentially making Luntz and Schoen the first to announce the Yushchenko victory in the first truly free Ukrainian national elections.

HARSH REALITIES?

Not that Rep. Barney Frank was ever a big fan of White House foreign policy.

Yet now, as President Bush prepares for his second term in office, "with Colin Powell no longer available to provide a facade of moderation, the harsher realities of the Bush foreign policy are becoming clearer," says the Massachusetts Democrat.

Among them, he says, "are the president's lack of any real commitment to the promotion of democracy as an American foreign-policy goal."

Wait a minute, isn't the spread of democracy one of Bush's intended legacies? Frank holds up two newspapers - The Washington Post and The New York Times.

A recent column in the Post, Frank continues, penned by editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt, points out "the extreme gap that exists between the Bush administration's claim that the advancement of democracy is a major goal of its foreign policy, and the almost complete absence of any real activity towards that goal in the execution of that foreign policy."

Most recently, Frank goes on, a New York Times piece by Joel Brinkley recalls that neoconservatives predicted the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would begin an era in which America was hailed for its liberating role - and democracy in turn would become almost infectious. Well, says Frank, they were mistaken.

He quotes Brinkley as writing that the image of the United States in the Middle East region has grown "dark, even hateful."

CRISIS MOGUL

We had occasion over the holidays to chat with Eric Dezenhall, president and CEO of one of the nation's leading crisis-management firms - Washington-based Dezenhall Resources - but not about his client list.

The one-time communications specialist in the Reagan White House, who hails from the Jersey Shore, can't discuss his clients. (Rest assured, if the chairman of a major corporation - or perhaps a well-known Hollywood entertainer of late - is in the hot seat, chances are Dezenhall's carefully crafted words are coming out of his mouth.)

What we did discuss is the crisis mogul's second career - writing books. In fact, Time magazine stacks Dezenhall's journalistic novels right up there with Tom Wolfe's.

His first book, "Nail 'Em! Confronting High-Profile Attacks on Celebrities and Businesses," was heralded as pioneering new techniques for understanding and defusing crises. Since then he's delved into fiction, authoring the novels "Money Wanders," "Jackie Disaster" and, most recently on bookshelves, "Shakedown Beach."

Like "Jackie Disaster" - which Kirkus Reviews called "the best thing to come out of Atlantic City since saltwater taffy" - "Shakedown Beach" has a Jersey backdrop, albeit imparting the lesson of national politics. It features a family-values Republican governor eyeing the White House, a political strategist in the mold of several current Washington characters and, of course, a damage-control specialist like Dezenhall himself.

WISH BECOMES REALITY

What's brand new, encompasses 87,000 square feet of interior exhibit space, has a giant wall made entirely of glass and gives the impression of an aircraft in flight?

The Air Force One Pavilion at the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, Calif.

"In this amazing story, the plane had to be trucked inside the pavilion in pieces," says Melissa Giller, spokeswoman for the library.

"The plane is resting above ground on pedestals, allowing visitors to walk completely around it, under it and through it," she says. "Hovering above two floors, the nose of the plane sits 32 feet above the ground floor, and the belly of the plane sits nine feet above the main floor."

Giller recalls that upon leaving office, Mr. Reagan said that one day he hoped he would be able to share Air Force One (a blue and white Boeing 707) with the American people by actually parking it at his presidential library overlooking Ventura County.

That wish will soon become a reality. On Friday, members of the press will be given hard-hat tours of the pavilion, which will open to the public this summer.

The pavilion will also showcase Reagan's 1982 presidential parade limousine, a Secret Service motorcade and the Marine One helicopter that transported President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Several weeks ago, this columnist had the opportunity to peek inside the Air Force One Pavilion, and it's truly a sight to behold.